Axiom Verge is one man’s love letter to Metroidvania games, and it really shows. This is a wonderful reminder of the Metroid and Castlevania games of old, and why we need more like it (Nintendo, new Metroid game please?). Exploring the world and learning about the setting and its inhabitants are all part of the adventure, while exploring and unlocking new power ups to progress just adds more interesting things you can do.
The setting itself follows a scientist named Trace who works at a laser lab, which ends up exploding in a freak accident and in some way or another, he ends up on an alien world with his only way out being to help a mysterious female voice named Elsenova. The plot’s pretty fantastic in this game, and it has a rich world and interestingly designed locales and characters. While some of the world is explained to the player, a lot isn’t explained in a whole lot of detail, and while some might think that’s a fault, I thought it really made the world seem mysterious as it left the imagination to player to determine certain things.
The graphics are classic pixels in the style of SNES era, although they’re a little more detailed, which really shows as the locations and enemies are interesting and varied, making each new area fun to explore. Some of the best design I found were in Elsenova and the characters you meet like her while exploring the world. You never get to know the real mystery behind this world, only a peek behind the curtain, but the areas really give you a lot to imagine and think about.
The gameplay is fantastic as well, with classic side-scrolling shooting action. The enemies and bosses are varied too, with enemies changing regularly between areas and while bosses are challenging, they all have patterns or weaknesses that you can exploit in order to achieve victory. I found all of the bosses challenging but fair, with it only usually taking 1-2 attempts to beat them. I did get stuck on a Giant Hornet boss, but that’s because I couldn’t figure out the strategy to beat it, rather than the boss being too unforgiving.
All the power-ups are unique and interesting as well, with many different types of guns and gadgets to acquire through the course of the game, making discovering secrets backtracking easier. All of the weapons are really fun to use, and useful against certain enemies and bosses, so you’ll find yourself switching weapons often.
Even the non-weapon power-ups are cool, allowing you to control a drone, go through walls, teleport, hack enemies and platforms, and even the ability to use passwords. All of these power-ups added to the gameplay and make the it more complicated as you move on — It opens up the world to you, as a lot of obstacles suddenly become traversable.
The game is pretty long, with my initial run taking a little more than 9 hours to complete, and that wasn’t even with collecting all of the items I possibly could have, or even completing the map, so this game has a lot value for the price.
There is even a Speed Run mode for people that like to try and run through the game as fast as they can and complete the bosses as quickly as possible. The mode was created for especially for speed runners that stream and it eliminates all cutscenes, randomized items, dialogue, and even adds an in-game timer. I like that they added this feature, as a lot of games wouldn’t have it, and Axiom Verge is the perfect speed running game as well.
I also want to mention the fact that this game was developed by two guys by names of Tom Happ and Dan Adelman, so I think it is absolutely amazing that they made such a high quality and polished game by themselves, and even added such things as speed running modes and passwords. It’s an amazing effort for only two developers, and I thought they deserved some praise.
Axiom Verge is an amazing indie game and deserves all the praise it gets. Between the amazing world building, neat plot, power-ups, unique bosses, and great gameplay, this is a game that is up there with the other greats in its genre, like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. If you’re at all a fan of either Metroid or the 2d Castlevania games, I would encourage you to pick this game up, as it’s just as good as everyone is saying it is.
A code was provided by Tom Happ Games for the purpose of this review.